Guest columnist Patty Czepiel Hayes: Vaccination day

  • In this March 26, 2021, file photo, a member of the Philadelphia Fire Department prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site setup at a Salvation Army location in Philadelphia. AP

Published: 4/29/2021 1:11:50 PM

I had expected to be a little emotional. This is historic. It’s been a long year for so many. I was nervous in the morning. Not afraid of the needle or the side effects, but afraid something would go wrong en route and I’d miss my appointment. It’s a 45-minute drive and it’s not easy to get appointments. I can’t miss it. I need to get to that CVS.

In the car I think about how lucky I’ve been and what immunity might feel like. Some kind of normalcy would be nice, an ounce of peace of mind. This is just the first shot and I won’t have any real immunity for a while. But, maybe, I’ll just feel … some kind of … shift.

I arrive. Try to check in. Too early. Need to come back in a half hour. I’m back. I check in. I’ve got the card. This is it, my historic moment. A pandemic vaccination. I’m a little dazed, standing in a line. Six feet away from everyone says the dot on the floor.

I wait. The line is in a regular aisle. I focus on my surroundings. Twinkies. I’m in the Twinkie aisle at CVS. I stare at the Twinkies.

Should I buy Twinkies? To celebrate later. I think I liked Twinkies when I was a kid. A nurse pops her head out from behind a screen and says something. It’s my turn. I leave the Twinkies and go behind the screen.

I sit. We chat. I get a shot. I forget about my historic moment and ask the nurse about the Twinkies. “Have you been tempted to buy Twinkies? You’re working near the Twinkie aisle all day.” She laughs.

As she writes on my card, I notice a wall of crunchy snacks. Skinny Pop popcorn, extra large bags. The nurse and I agree Skinny Pop is good popcorn.

With my proof-of-vaccine card in hand, I thank the nurse, move past the Twinkies and head to the waiting area/makeup aisle for my 15-30 minute post-vac safety check. I’m told I can walk around the store or sit with the others. I wander, waiting for the sense of history, in the shampoo aisle. The candy aisle. The Band-Aid aisle. Cold remedies. Eye care. Greeting cards.

By the time I’m in foot care I know there isn’t going to be a feeling of victory or peace of mind today, just an anti-climactic realization that 15 minutes have passed and it’s time to leave.

On the way home I don’t think about immunity or history, just the Skinny Pop stomach ache that’s already brewing, my only side effect of the day.

Patty Czepiel Hayes is a longtime Hadley resident who grew up in Easthampton.

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